It could be recalled that Liberia recorded the first case of the virus on March 16, 2020, when the suspended Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mr. Nathaniel T. Blama, was confirmed positive upon his return from a global environmental conference in Switzerland.
Accordingly, like any other counties across the country, Grand Bassa has not achieved this milestone on silver platter, but amid dangling financial, logistical and other challenges.
Speaking in an interview with the Heritage via mobile phone, the Superintendent of the County, Mr. Janjay Baikpeh, disclosed that the county through the local leadership headed by him, and the Legislative caucus have made interventions that are not only focused on prevention, but containment should there be a case.
According to him, the local leadership with the support of central government and development partners is doing everything humanly possible to ensure that the virus does not enter the county, noting that all necessary preventive measures recommended out by health authorities are being put into place in the county.
Prior to the pronouncement of the State of Emergency(SOE) by President George Manneh Weah, Supt. Baikpeh said the County Legislative Caucus approved an initial budget of US$5,000, which was used to purchase buckets and other anti COVID--19 materials.
He said those buckets and materials were distributed across all the five electoral districts (nine administrative districts) for use by the local people.
He also disclosed that some corporate partners, including ArcelorMittal, Equatorial Palm, the Liberia Agricultural Company (LAC) as well as local logging companies and Hotel Buchanan have made some contributions towards the fight as well.
The Grand Bassa County chief administrator pointed out that mechanisms have also been put into place that mandates citizens to adhere to all safety protocols.
“We have created some check points in the suburbs of Buchanan like those major interceptions; going into the various communities, and the youthful population has been helping by ensuring that people wash their hands before going in and coming out of the communities,” stated the Grand Bassa Supt.
He noted that on the overall, the county has made series of breakthroughs, stressing that citizens are no longer living in the state of denial; rather they are supporting government’s efforts by taking all necessary precautionary measures to prevent the disease.
“There are many breakthroughs, but the major one is that our citizens have gotten to know that the virus truly exists. Most of them are no longer living in the state of denial, because there have been high level of awareness,” Baikpeh asserted.
Despite all of these achievements, he mentioned that there are still a mammoth of challenges such as the issue of finance, which continue to backslide the fight against the virus.
“Our country is face with lots of challenges and Grand Bassa is no exception to this. Most of the things we want to do in this period can’t be done because we don’t have the money to do them. As a country, we operate directly on a cash-based budget and the budget has to be exhausted before you apply for money. So, if it is not exhausted, you won’t have money for emergency,” furthered the county head.
“So, our major challenge is finance. We need money to start training people in the county. We need contact tracers for just in case,” he continued.
However, on the heels of these many constraints, he revealed that ArcelorMittal has been helping tremendously in the area of logistics.
“Hopefully, what we were able to do in the midst of these challenges, we were able to reach out to ArcelorMittal and they have agreed to help us. In fact, [the company] took the two ambulances that have been down at the Liberia Government Hospital for repair. Just in case we have a case, which we don’t pray for, we want to have a specialized ambulance that will be responsible for coronavirus related cases. ArcelorMittal has also agreed to give two ventilators to our government hospital as well,” he also revealed.
“Furthermore, Senator [Karnga-Lawrence) and I were able to speak to NASSCORP for one of its buildings that is not being used so that we will use it as an isolation center and it has been agreed upon. We are going to look at that building today or tomorrow to do assessment,” he added.
In a related development, the Grand Bassa County supt. has categorically denied reports in some quarters of the Liberian society and both in the traditional media and social media that he had a closed interaction with Sinoe County Superintendent Lee Nagbe Chea, before he (Chea) was confirmed positive of the virus.
“Yes, the Superintendent of Sinoe is a good friend of mine; he is the co-chair to me on the superintendent council of Liberia, but there was no direct contact between us before being tested positive of the virus,” he clarified.
“He passed through my county and his car had a breakdown in Gio Town. We were not able to meet each other-we only spoke on the phone. I am in prayer with him; I call him every day and I understand he is doing well to where he is being isolated,” he, among other things, indicated.